In a weekend when the Manchester derby is the main attraction, there is another derby going on in West London. Chelsea need to bounce back, as three defeats on the trot is not an option, especially for a Mourinho outfit. However Fulham always give a good performance against their West London rivals, so it should be interesting to watch this weekend. Furthermore, both sides are coming into the match in poor form, as Chelsea have failed to win in their last two league games, while Fulham have failed to win in their last three, so it could be a nervy affair.
Jose Mourinho has been correct since coming back to Chelsea, as he talked about six title challengers and that each week different sides will drop points. No side has a perfect record anymore as Liverpool drew against Swansea. The point Mourinho was trying to make, is that the league is extremely close and there is no one side that will run away with it. He would have been keen to get this across, as many pundits predicted that Chelsea would win the league easily now that he has returned.
Chelsea will want to bounce back from a disappointing away defeat against Everton and an unthinkable Champions League defeat at Stamford Bridge against Basel. They will want to be more prolific, as they only managed to get five shots on target despite having 22 shots overall, which was double the amount of shots that Everton had, yet the home side also got five on target. Samuel Eto’o had a disappointing debut in which he had two great chances, wasting both, with the second being blocked brilliantly by Gareth Barry. Mourinho is really struggling to choose his best line up as he is rotating his players every week, especially his attacking talent.
Fulham have also had a stuttering start to the season after a magnificent result on the opening day away to Sunderland, a game they won 1-0. Martin Jol has come under early pressure from fans as he continues to play negatively away from home with his side only managing to get three shots on target in their opening two away matches. He is also struggling when it comes to finding his best eleven as he has lots of attacking talent to choose from, but he can’t find a formation to get the best from them. They had an infuriating home draw last week against West Brom as Gareth McAuley scored a late equaliser.
In the first four matches, none of Chelsea’s strikers have managed to score a league goal. They will struggle to win the title without a striker who can score 15+ goals and neither Samuel Eto’o or Fernando Torres look like they could. The player who has scored 15 or more in the last two Premier League seasons, Demba Ba, appears to be out of favour. While Romelu Lukaku, who scored 17 goals for West Brom last season, was allowed to go out on loan.
Aaron Hughes has blocked 6 shots so far this season, which is the joint second best in the league along with Danny Gabbidon. They are only bettered by Steven Caulker.
Eden Hazard is the key man for Chelsea as he has created the most chances in the Premier League so far with 12. He is emerging as the first choice attacking midfielder at the club with Mourinho rotating Juan Mata, Kevin de Bruyne, Andre Schurrle and Oscar in the other positions. Fulham have been quite tight at the back so far, with only Arsenal putting more than one past them, but Hazard has the ability to unlock their defence regularly. After a year in England, the Belgian will have adapted to the league and he should be ready to unleash his best football on the English sides. As he is playing in a team that is lacking goals, he will need to up his own scoring tally. Chelsea have only managed 4 league goals so far, while they haven’t scored in their last two league matches; Hazard is crucial in changing that, as he has the ability to score and create chances.
Scott Parker will have to play out of his skin if Fulham are to get a positive result on Saturday. His tackle success rate is 100% so far this season and he will need to keep this high as he will be facing a mixture of Chelsea’s attacking midfielders. Fulham have struggled to fit their array of attacking talent into their starting eleven, and if they are to get the ball at Stamford Bridge, they will need their ball winning midfielder to retrieve it before passing to them. Also this fixture sees Parker going back to one of his former clubs which will give him extra motivation to play well. The Englishman still has an outside chance of getting back into the National squad which is why he moved across London to Fulham. It’s during big matches like this that he will catch Roy Hodgson’s attention. His minutes per tackle (39 minutes) is impressive and it is only likely to decrease after this match.
Chelsea have nobody out injured at the moment, so Mourinho has the entire squad to pick from. Willian could make his Premier League debut after playing his first game for Chelsea in the Champions League. John Terry is likely to start after missing the European defeat to Basel. After disappointing in his first two starts, Eto’o could be dropped in favour of Fernando Torres or Demba Ba. Chelsea fans have complained about Mourinho experimenting with his starting eleven, so he may now look to start being more consistent with his team selection.
Bryan Ruiz is likely to miss out after picking up an ankle injury against West Brom, however it is better than first feared. Aaron Hughes and Darren Bent are doubts for this match. Maarten Stekelenburg is out for at least another week, so David Stockdale will continue to deputise. Berbatov and Kieran Richardson both picked up knocks last weekend but should be okay to start at Stamford Bridge. Adel Taarabt should replace Ruiz in the starting eleven.
I fully expect Chelsea to beat Fulham comfortably. Mourinho never loses three matches in a row and I don’t expect him to start now. Mourinho will get his players up for this match to prove a point to their critics. Fulham don’t have the talent in midfield (apart from Parker) to win and retain possession, while their attacking players aren’t hard working, so they will struggle defensively. Chelsea haven’t scored many goals so far and this is the perfect fixture for them to put a few in the net and boost the players’ confidence.